Cricket in 2022: Packed calendar promises drama

Rohit Sharma, the new white-ball skipper, and new head coach Rahul Dravid have spoken about working on defining every player’s role and giving them the security to play “fearlessly”.

Change at the helm: India’s new head coach Rahul Dravid with the new ODI and T20 captain Rohit Sharma. India has failed to win an ICC tournament under Virat Kohli’s captaincy and one hopes the twocan end the title drought.   -  PTI

Cricket’s international schedule for 2022, for men and women, includes two World Cups and the promise of a more widespread return to normal service in the wake of the COVID­19 outbreak. India men and women will look to add elusive silverwares to their respective trophy cabinets — the men at the T20 World Cup in Australia and the women at the 50-over World Cup in New Zealand.

India men's side is a brilliant team with identifiable shortcomings, in T20Is case, the top three in the squad all performing a similar role — as anchors who tend to start slowly before accelerating. Sustaining a title challenge at the next T20 World Cup in Australia will be a test. But it would also be no great surprise to see a fit and best XI make a genuine go of it. But top order dependency looms large. They need other members to hit a prolific streak. The last T20 World Cup in the UAE was the sixth consecutive world event in which India failed to win the crown.

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Rohit Sharma took over the T20 captaincy from Virat Kohli after India’s exit in the group stage of the last T20 World Cup, with the next edition coming up in less than a year. Rohit and new head coach Rahul Dravid have spoken about working on defining every player’s role and giving them the security to play “fearlessly”. Rohit was also appointed India’s ODI captain, ending Kohli’s tenure as white­-ball skipper, one he took over full­time in January 2017. While Kohli’s captaincy record in 50­overs cricket is excellent — he led in 95 ODIs, won 65, lost 27 — India failed to win an ICC tournament under him. Rohit will aim to end the drought. Meanwhile, India will also host the West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa as part of the 2021­22 home season, for a total of two Tests, three ODIs and 11 T20Is till June 2022. The home season extending till June is a result of the Indian Premier League becoming a 10­team tournament from the 2022 edition as two new franchises — Ahmedabad and Lucknow — were announced in October 2021 by the BCCI. The IPL 2022 mega auction is expected to take place in Bengaluru on February 12 and 13.

Elsewhere, with the World Test Championship table finely poised and subplots everywhere, it is no wonder the WTC will hold the spotlight. The postponed fifth match of the Test series between England and India has been rescheduled and will now take place at Edgbaston in July. The match, which was due to be played at Old Trafford, was called off when India was unable to field a team due to Covid concerns. The tourist leads the series 2­1.

The England team pose for a photo after victory in the ICC Women's World Cup 2017 Final between England and India at Lord's Cricket Ground on July 23, 2017.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

England men’s fixture list for 2022 includes three Tests against New Zealand in June, followed by ODI and T20I series against India and a full South Africa tour, which concludes in mid­September. Australia will tour Pakistan for the first time in 24 years in March and April. The tour will include three Tests, three ODIs and one T20I, taking place in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore. Australia last toured Pakistan in 1998, when current Australia head coach Justin Langer was part of the Test squad. It’s also a watershed year for women’s cricket, which will debut at this year’s Commonwealth Games. Australia vs India in Edgbaston on July 29 will kick off a nine­-day tournament, with the gold medal match scheduled for August 7. The teams have been split into two groups of four, and the top two from each group will qualify for the semifinals which will be played on August 6. This is only the second time that cricket will feature in the Commonwealth Games. The first occasion was the men’s ODI competition in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, which was won by South Africa.

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England will begin the defence of its Women’s 50­over Cricket World Cup against Australia in Hamilton in March 2022. The tournament, originally due to be held in 2021, was delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Host New Zealand, Australia, England, South Africa and India have already qualified for the competition, which will now be held between March 4 and April 3. The men’s T20 World Cup will be held across seven venues in Australia from October 16 to November 13. The tournament was supposed to be held in the country in 2020 but was pushed back by two years because of the coronavirus pandemic. A total of 45 matches will be contested in Adelaide, Brisbane, Geelong, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Adelaide and Sydney will stage the semifinals with the final under lights at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Australia is the defending champion after its eight-wicket win over New Zealand in Dubai in the last edition.

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Australia celebrates with the ICC Men's T20 World Cup trophy.   -  Reuters

 

Sri Lanka and the West Indies will play the qualifiers with Namibia, Scotland, and four other countries to be determined through two qualifying tournaments — one in Oman in February and the other in Zimbabwe in summer 2022. It is an important year for West Indies cricket. Its early exit from the last T20 World Cup marked the end of an incredible era in the shortest format, during which the team emphasised six­-hitting and redefined the role of finishers, shaping T20 as we know it today. None of this means West Indies’ — and England’s too — method of minimising dots and maximising big hits has become outdated. None of that means teams will not continue to try and control T20 games by flying out of the blocks and maintaining the same intensity throughout. What does seem to be the case, though, is that the examples of Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand seem to have changed the approach of reactive teams when encountering a mentality that pushes boundary­-hitting to the forefront. And that will probably prevent the style enjoying the pre­eminence it saw with the West Indies between 2009 and 2021, especially in conditions that demand versatility.